NCAA Basketball Championship: How March Madness Affects Office Networks

Why Your IT Staff Hates March Madness

Your IT team knows you're watching March Madness, and they don't like it.

According to a study conducted by Modis, an IT staffing service, over two-thirds of the 500 IT professionals surveyed said they had taken steps to either lessen or block the streaming of non-work content during the annual NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship or "March Madness." Forty-two percent said they have monitored employees who have tried to stream March Madness content.

It's not that people who work in IT hate basketball -- they just like their companies' networks to function properly. The spike in streaming during the NCAA tournament puts a huge strain on a company's network, which according to the Modis study, slows connection speeds and in 34 percent of cases actually causes the network to crash.

According to Media Life Magazine, the tournament, which started on Tuesday, is the only sporting event credited with decreasing work productivity. This may be because unlike the Super Bowl or World Series, the NCAA tournament is played during work hours and includes "brackets" or placing bets on which team will win each game. A survey conducted by MSN found that 86 percent of respondents said they would spend part of their work days following the tournament.

In its annual report on the effect of March Madness on worker productivity, job placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas says that according to an admittedly unscientific study, U.S. companies could stand to lose $175 million in decreased productivity during the first two days of the tournament alone.

However, the report goes on to say that this estimate is meant to be taken with a rather large grain of salt, and that the effect March Madness has on worker productivity is likely to be small.

"The company’s internet speeds may be slower, some workers will not respond to emails as promptly, and lunch breaks may extend beyond the usual time limits. It’s mostly a headache-inducing annoyance for information technology departments, human resources and department managers," Challenger, Gray & Christmas' report reads.

Other estimates aren't quite so optimistic. MSN reports that based on the estimated 50 million Americans who participate in office betting pools during March Madness, tournament following workers will cost companies a total of $2 billion in 2012.

Of course these dire predictions likely won't stop employees from keeping one eye on the games, or even skipping work entirely. Earlier this month Mashable reported on a Facebook app in which Shaquille O'Neill will "call" basketball fans' bosses with a made-up excuse for why they're not at work. The app allows people to pick from a variety of excuses like "hitting the beach," as well as several different NSFW greetings for your boss including "Playa" and "Honey Bunny."

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